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The Louisiana Purchase: The Greatest Bargain in American History

Written By: Tim George  |  Posted: Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

            As the new century approached, President Thomas Jefferson faced a serious dilemma. Napoleon Bonaparte's aggression made it apparent that New Orleans, essential to international trade, and the Mississippi River, which was critical for national and international commerce, might soon be closed to U.S. trade. Spain had returned its vast American territories to France in a secret compact, and President Jefferson knew he needed to act quickly.

            One giant problem stood in Jefferson's way. The Constitution made no provision for acquiring territory. Disregarding that troublesome fact, Jefferson took matters into his own hands and sent envoys to Napoleon to see if he would sell. The emperor, facing a war with Great Britain, knew he was unlikely to be able to defend the territory, so he decided to sell it for the now famous sum of $15 million. In one momentous day, the purchase doubled the size of the young country, including the territory of fourteen states.

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